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Businesses taking part in ‘Operation Christmas Child’

Packing an Operation Christmas Child shoebox is more than just gathering items for children. It’s about building traditions with family as well.

Liz Hooper works at Auto Plaza Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Farmington. The dealership is a drop-off point for the shoebox ministry. In addition, the $9 shipping fee for each box will be covered for all boxes brought to the dealership, located on Woodlawn Drive.

Hooper said she was thrilled when she learned her place of employment would serve as a place to help make the difference in the life of a child.

Her family began packing boxes through her in-laws’ church in Gray Summit. Her mother-in-law asked if they would be interesting in packing shoeboxes

“It was an amazing sermon about the shoeboxes and the Good Samaritan and what it means to give … the act of love,” Hooper said. “I thought it was just a fantastic idea and thought, ‘how great it is that we can do this for people in need … how amazing is that?’”

After the birth of her children Johannah, 8, and Nate, 6, the ministry took on a whole new meaning for Hooper.

“Whenever Johannah was old enough, I thought it would be great for her to be able to learn that lesson to care about other people,” she said, “to be able to think outside of the box as far as ‘it’s just me, this is my world and I am the center of it.’

“To be able to say, ‘there is a lot of other needy people and I can do one small thing or act of kindness to spread that love.’ I thought it was great for both the kids and we do it every year.”

They pack a boy and girl box for each age group, with Hooper packing a box for older age children.

Packing a shoebox is easy – as directions from Samaritan’s Purse explain. Each individual box is designated for either boy or girl in the following age categories – 2-4; 5-9 or 10-14.

The box is then filled with age-appropriate toys and items – everything from dolls and soccer balls and pumps, to school supplies and hygiene items.

Some items were added to the “do not include” list and include candy, toothpaste, war-related toys, used or damaged items, and food or liquids.

“We always pick out the essentials, like a washcloth and a bar of soap, toothbrushes,” she said. “And then we pick out things like a single subject notebook, some pencils and some erasers and then a small toy like a Hot Wheels toy or whatever Johannah thinks a girl might want … whatever someone their age would like so they could think ‘I did something good for someone else.’”

She said they also started writing letters to include in the box. Hooper said she would include a scripture passage, while Johannah would write a letter introducing herself and spreading the love of Jesus Christ in the letter.

Last year, Hooper said Nate wrote, “Hi, my name is Nate. I really hope you like my gift.”

Boxes for packing are available at the dealership. Hooper said she learned of other coworkers’ involvement with the ministry shortly after the display was set up.

“It’s just kind of cool how one thing can connect so many people for the greater good,” she said.

Boxes are due back at the dealership by Nov. 12.

“All you have to do is fill a box with the appropriate item,” Hooper said, “and Auto Plaza takes care of the rest which I thought was really cool to do.”

Shawna Pettus with Auto Plaza Group said she was contacted by local representatives with Operation Christmas Child asking if the dealership would be interested in being a drop-off location.

Pettus said after hearing about the program, and having several employees share their stories of assembling these shoes boxes with their families over these years, “we knew we wanted to be a part of it.”

“We have many different service projects through the year that allows employees and community members to join us in doing something big,” Pettus said. “Every Christmas we like to support many local organizations such as Shop With A Cop, BackStoppers and Toys for Tots.

“And although this project is not local, the impact is still felt here by the community members and our staff giving them purpose … using these gift-filled shoeboxes to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to children in need around the world.”

Boxes can be dropped off at Auto Plaza Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram during normal business hours.

Other local businesses serving as drop-off points include Kammermann’s Pest Control, Ophelia’s, Oasis Christian Book Store and the Farmington Police Department.

There are also a number of drop-off church locations as well. Collection week begins on Monday. Drop-off locations and hours are included in a sidebar to this story.

Gene and Barb Wilfong serve as co-directors for the Southeast Missouri District of Operation Christmas Child – which encompasses nine counties. Last year, more than 17,000 shoeboxes were packed, donated and shipped from the district for worldwide distribution.

The ministry marks 25 years this year, with the collection week set for Nov. 12-19.

The goal this year for the Southeast District is 18,566 – about 8 percent over last year.

Four new team members are helping the couple with getting the word out about Operation Christmas Child and getting businesses involved with the program.

The $9 fee also covers the cost of the “Greatest Journey” – a 12-week discipleship program taught to the students receiving shoeboxes.

Boxes are then delivered to the local drop-off locations during the week of Nov. 12-19. This year’s locations include: First Baptist Church of Farmington, Leadington First Free Will Baptist, First Baptist Church of Fredericktown and Hope Church in Ste. Genevieve. New this year is a drop-off location in Marble Hill.

There is also an option of packing an online shoebox. For $25, a box for either a boy or girl will be filled with age-appropriate items – a new feature for the program in the past couple of years.

For more information on Operation Christmas Child collection in this area, contact Gene Wilfong at 573-218-8690.

First Baptist Church of Farmington

210 N A Street

Mon, Nov. 12: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 13: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; 5-7 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 14: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 15: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 16: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 17: 9-11 a.m.

Sun, Nov. 18: 12-3 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 19: 8-10 a.m.

Leadington Free Will Baptist Church

218 Woodlawn Drive

Mon, Nov. 12: 3-6 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 13: 3:-6 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 14: 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 15: 3-7 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 16: 3-6 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 17: 1-3 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 18: 1:30-5:30 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 19: 9-11 a.m.

First Baptist Church of Fredericktown

115 E College Avenue

Mon, Nov. 12: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 13: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 14: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 15: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; 6-8 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 16: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 17: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Sun, Nov. 18: 1-4 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 19: 8-10 a.m.

Hope Church – Ste. Genevieve

30 Triangle Drive

Mon, Nov. 12: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Tue, Nov. 13: 4-6 p.m.

Wed, Nov. 14: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thu, Nov. 15: 4-6 p.m.

Fri, Nov. 16: 4-6 p.m.

Sat, Nov. 17: 8-10 a.m.

Sun, Nov. 18: 12:30-2:30 p.m.

Mon, Nov. 19: 9-11 a.m.

Liz Hooper, right, and Mary Davis with Auto Plaza Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram show sample packed Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. Boxes can be picked up, packed and returned by Nov. 12, with the dealership picking up the $9 per box shipping charge for each box. Hooper said she learned of her coworkers' involvement with the program after the drop-off location was announced. 

Liz Hooper, right, and Mary Davis with Auto Plaza Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram show sample packed Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. Boxes can be picked up, packed and returned by Nov. 12, with the dealership picking up the $9 per box shipping charge for each box. Hooper said she learned of her coworkers’ involvement with the program after the drop-off location was announced. 

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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